12 Dead, 8 Missing in Twilight Inn Fire; Night Blaze Traps Guests in Catskills Watchman Dies Trying to Save Others Asleep in the Hotel

HAINES FALLS, N. Y., July 14 -
Twelve persons are known to have
been burned to death and eight more,
still missing late tonight, are believed
to have perished in a fire which early
this morning destroyed Twilight Inn.
a hotel in Twilight Park, a restricted
cottage community perched high in
the Catskill Mountains here.
Twelve injured persons are in the
Red Cross hospital at Tannersville, one
in Kingston hospital and others not
so badly hurt are being cared for at
cottages in Twilight Park. Most of
them were injured when they leaped
from upper windows to escape the
flames.Eleven bodies recovered from the
ruins had been so badly charred that
identification was impossible. The
hotel register is in a safe in the
smoldering-ruins, making the work
of checking up on the guests most
difficult. There were forty-eight guests
and thirty-five employees in the four-story
frame inn when the fire started.
When State troopers late tonight
ceased their task of searching for the
bodies, another one had been seen, but
could not be recovered because of the
heat of the ruins. Firemen will keep
two streams of water playing on the
debris throughout the night so that
this work may be completed tomorrow.
A favorite Catskill resort for many
years, the hotel was most picturesquely
situated, crowning one of twin
peaks, on the other of which formerly
stood the Hotel Kaaterskills, visible for
fifty miles up and down the Hudson
until it was burned down two years
ago. Below the Twilight Inn runs
Kaaterskill Clove, a four-mile gorge
famous as the reputed scene of the
long sleep of Rip Van Winkle, who,
local tradition has it, lived in Falenville,
the village at the end of the
gorge. The inn itself had been the
Summer resting place of hundreds of
New Yorkers in the last few years.

Dies Trying to Save Others
All the guests and all of the day employes
were asleep when the fire
started. There had been a bridge
party early in the evening for the
guests, but this ended before midnight.
There had been a dance in the servants'
quarters, which also broke up
about the same time. The fire started
in the servants' wing of the hotel and
it is believed that it may have been
caused by the discarding of a lighted
cigarette.
Carl Stryker, the night watchman,
one of the heroic missing, discovered
the fire. He aroused the guests and
after departing from the hotel returned
at least half a dozen times, to save
some of those caught on the upper
floors. The last time he entered, a
floor collapsed beneath him and he
perished in the flames.
Once the alarm of fire had been
raised by Stryker the upper floors of
the inn were soon filled with screaming
guests, most of them in night attire.
The chief reason why so many
lives were lost is believed to have
been the efforts of the guests to save
some of their effects, others, it was
said, became panic-stricken and lost
precious moments in confused running
about the halls.
So close was the fire to the fleeing
guests, that a mother who was leaving,
followed by her two daughters,
saw one of them fall into the flames
when she turned to look for her. Mrs.
Stephen Erdelyn, wife of t h e chef of
the inn, got out safely, but was burned
to death when she returned to look for
her husband, who had escaped uninjured.

Flames Visible for Miles
Almost simultaneously with the first
alarm of fire the flames burst forth
so that they could be seen for miles
around. There was no time to get the
hotel fire fighting equipment into
operation, and the town fire department,
aided by scores of volunteers
from Tannersville, Haines Falls,
Kingston and Catskill who rushed to
the inn, were unable to do much effective
work.

July 15, 1926 edition of "The New York Times"